Rubber Hits The Road: Goodyear Under Fire For Listing Of Unacceptable Symbols

932px-Goodyear_Cord_Tire,_1920Goodyear Tire company is under fire this week for a listing of acceptable and unacceptable symbols or attire in the workplace.  President Trump has railed against the inclusion of MAGA hats as “unacceptable” and called for a boycott.  I do not agree.  I think it is appropriate to ban political endorsements or symbols in a business but there is a legitimate concern over what is deemed “acceptable.” The touchstone of free speech protections is content neutrality and Goodyear appears to be enforcing a viewpoint preference. The question is whether, as a private business, it has an obligation to be neutral.

The story went viral after a Goodyear employee shared a slide from a recent company diversity training session at a plant in Topeka, Kan., which showed two categories: Acceptable and Unacceptable.  The acceptable items included Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride (LGBT). The unacceptable items included Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, MAGA and politically affiliated slogans or material.

The MAGA reference is what set off President Trump who declared “Don’t buy GOODYEAR TIRES—They announced a BAN ON MAGA HATS. Get better tires for far less“(This is what the Radical Left Democrats do. Two can play the same game, and we have to start playing it now!).”

While stressing that the list came from a diversity training session, the company did not deny the line drawn between these groups and causes. The company released as statement that:

“Goodyear is committed to fostering an inclusive and respectful workplace where all of our associates can do their best in a spirit of teamwork. As part of this commitment, we do allow our associates to express their support on racial injustice and other equity issues but ask that they refrain from workplace expressions, verbal or otherwise, in support of political campaigning for any candidate or political party as well as other similar forms of advocacy that fall outside the scope of equity issues.”

I get the policy on barring “forms of advocacy” and businesses have the right to impose limitations, an issue that we discussed on the NFL kneeling controversy. However, the list does not seem to follow a needed bright-line rule to avoid the appearance of bias.

The inclusion of Black Lives Matter but not Blue Lives Matter raises the most obvious concern over a preference for political viewpoints. There are some people who support the call that Black Lives Matter but do not support the organization. Others support both the Black Lives Matter as well as Blue Lives Matter.  I understand the view of many people that we need to focus on BLM to address problems of racial justice in our system.  But it is a viewpoint preference.

In my view, Goodyear has a right to limiting viewpoints expressed in their stores. For example, a clothing store may want to espouse environmental causes. In taking such an approach, there is an obvious risk of boycotts and backlash but I do not believe that there is a legal requirement to evenly apply such rules in a private space.  Even with government property classified as a non-public forum, content-based speech limitations need only be reasonable and viewpoint-neutral. Perry Educ. Ass’n v. Perry Local Educators’ Ass’n, 460 U.S. 37, 46 (1983). In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled in Grayned v. City of Rockford that in determining the time, place, and manner limitations on speech “[the] crucial question is whether the manner of expression is basically incompatible with the normal activity of a particular place at a particular time.”

In this dispute, Goodyear is allowing some advocacy while barring other forms of advocacy. However, this is a private space (albeit open to the public). The first amendment applies to government limitations on free speech. Thus, Goodyear is likely to face economic and political consequences rather than legal consequences for its policy.  Goodyear reportedly stocks fell six percent after the Trump call for a boycott.

 

132 thoughts on “Rubber Hits The Road: Goodyear Under Fire For Listing Of Unacceptable Symbols”

  1. So, if you are a corporation based on capitalist principles, it would be a fatal error to alienate 50% of your potential customer base.
    I hope this resides in the memory of any HR person considering a hire of a Goodyear employee with an MBA.
    I do not know the percentage of Goodyear’s sales that are generated by Police/first responder vehicles, but I’m willing to bet it is a considerable amount larger than BLM and LGBT combined total sales are.
    Another strike against the decision, business wise directly insulting one of what I suspect is your primary customer bases.

    This political persecution thinly veiled as diversity training was given at a plant (not customer facing positions) in a town 76.2% White, 11.3% African American, and the county went Trump in 2016.
    Potentially limiting your employee base with skills and means to go elsewhere. I’d be interested in knowing what the make up is of their employee base.
    Most likely another strike against them for business sense. (this is a mental exercise, not all Blacks support BLM, and not all whites support the police, so spare me the broad brush)
    So business wise, no way is this a good decision.

    There is also audio of this. And Goodyear Corporate has tried to save face only with the police but dont consider BLM or LGBT Pride to be Political.
    But I bet a man wearing a White Lives Matter shirt would be fired on the spot. That is Racial Discrimination. Illegal last I heard. If a man wore a shirt that said sodomy should be illegal, they’d be fired on the spot. Per SCOTUS recent ruling, that would be discrimination based on sexual preference. Per Chief Justice John Roberts, when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, they meant to protect what was considered a mental disorder at that time by the educated professional of psychiatry.
    I mean, if the XIV actually meant what it says, the above would apply, but it doesnt because quite seriously, our jurisprudence of the day is that some are more equal than others.

    .

  2. A business should never allow politics or religion to be discussed during the business hours. You are selling a product to the public–they did not come there to hear or over hear your opinion about political parties or what you believe it says in the Bible or if you are a non-believer. They came to buy– in this case tires. If it gets out to the public that an employee said he was not voting for someone and this customer is offended and tells all his friends not to buy your product. Also, employees might be insulted by another employees opinion which could lead to a bad outcome. So, in my opinion and career experience I think you should leave your opinions about politics and religion at home. It is not professional to do otherwise and the company could be in a law suit from an employee who sues because of a toxic workplace.

    1. “A business should never allow politics or religion to be discussed during the business hours.”

      Businesses get to chose as they please. While you are likely correct that a neutral policy – even one barring political and religious discussion might prove a good idea, there is no requirement that a private business allow or prohibit any specific expression. Nor that the business itself must remain neutral. Just as there is not requirement that consumers can not favor or disfavor goodyear for their choice.

      “You are selling a product to the public–they did not come there to hear or over hear your opinion about political parties or what you believe it says in the Bible or if you are a non-believer. They came to buy– in this case tires. If it gets out to the public that an employee said he was not voting for someone and this customer is offended and tells all his friends not to buy your product. Also, employees might be insulted by another employees opinion which could lead to a bad outcome. So, in my opinion and career experience I think you should leave your opinions about politics and religion at home. It is not professional to do otherwise and the company could be in a law suit from an employee who sues because of a toxic workplace.”

      Your advice is good – but it is not manditory.

      Freedom must include the freedom to make mistakes.

      Whether Goodyear has made a mistake or not will be reflected in their bottom line shortly.

      If they have made a mistake – shareholders will punish them for it.

      1. they took a little ding but it matters little to the bottom line prolly., long run the CHINA trade issues mean a lot more to them, done explaining why that drives this strange story

        in fact a lot of stock pricing has little to do with fundamentals and trivia alike, all pale beside the massive quantitative monster elephant in the room, THE FED

        1. “they took a little ding but it matters little to the bottom line prolly”

          I do not know, I do not care. If enough consumers are angry enough to effect their bottom line they will have to change, if not I am OK with that. I do not care if PETA threats persuade McD’s to change how they raise chickens. I do not care if consumers persuade businesses to do something that is net stupid. So long as the leverage is between consumers and the business I do not care. It is when people leverage government to compel changes in business that I care.

          I would note though that small changes in profitability can be a big deal. Walmart as an example makes an average of 1.5% on each sale, but they can turn their inventory every 60-90 days for a larger yearly profit. Smaller stores can not do that which is why they must charge more. I do not know Goodyear’s details, but I would guess that a 1% sustained drop in sales would be a catastrophe large enough for them to change this policy.

          Bug business is generally much more fragile than small businesses.

          “long run the CHINA trade issues mean a lot more to them”
          Different issue – but probably true. China shows precisely why it is consumers not government that should control businesses.
          Look what China has done to google, apply, the NBA.

          “in fact a lot of stock pricing has little to do with fundamentals”
          The stock price is literally the value of the company, and therefore its ability to secure capital, investment and grow the business.

          “all pale beside the massive quantitative monster elephant in the room, THE FED”
          The FED is the elephant in the room, but even the FED is normally constrained by stock prices.

          First the FED does not normally give/loan money to businesses. It deals with banks.
          Banks loan money to businesses, and they do so based on the credit of that business.
          Credit is not mostly magical. Apple can borrow alot more than I can because they are worth more.
          And what Apple is worth is the stock price times the number of outstanding shares.

          As you decided to delve into the FED, I would ask you why the FED’s massive game playing with money over the past decade has not resulted in inflation ?

          I would suggest that is because government money is not a much much smaller portion of the REAL money supply.

          One of the things people should have learned from the financial crisis is that CDS’s, MBS’s, stocks, …. are all MONEY.
          They are not the kind of money most of us can use at the grocery store. But they are absolutely the kind of money that businesses use to buy and sell other businesses. The NYSE alone had a market capitalization of $22T 3 years ago. That dwarf’s the FED.

          Overall this is good. The less power the FED has the better.

  3. This is trivial.

    Goodyear is free to decide what is appropriate, and the rest of us are free to decide to boycott them for those decisions.

    I think goodyear has made bad choices – but they are free to do so.
    And I am free to choose other tires because of it.

    1. Hello Mr. Richard J. Kramer of the Goodyear Corp. and other business owners in the U.S.

      I believe your company will be is LESS HOT WATER, if you print my “Proposed” retraction of your original H.R. projector slide information that offended a VERY LARGE % of Americans.

      There are 2 MAJOR political groups that vote in the USA elections. Goodyear will be destroyed in the court of PUBLIC OPINION by about 50% of Americans; if Goodyear doesn’t STAY NEUTRAL in this Presidential election year of 2020.

      Your company makes a VERY GOOD PRODUCT. And it would be bad for business if you don’t clarify, and promote what MOST AMERICANS believe-in, who want to protect ideas that save lives, makes Americans more loving or tolerant of others different in race, religion or politics; for we are all Americans first and foremost, who should love God, self, others and country, in the spirit of unity and peace for all.

      ACCEPTABLE:
      Black Lives Matter (BLM)
      Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride (LGBT

      UNACCEPTABLE
      Blue Lives Matter
      All Lives Matter
      MAGA Attire
      Political Affiliated Slogans or Material

      A Goodyear Retraction and update
      of what their employees can promote in their speech, and clothing attire.

      The human resource director for Goodyear
      should have listed the below projector slide
      submitted by Arthur Trafford

      ACCEPTABLE
      Black Lives Matter (BLM)
      Blue Lives Matter
      All Lives Matter

      UNACCEPTABLE
      No Political Affiliated Slogans or Material
      No hate speech written or verbal that attacks another person’s political, religious or cultural views etc. that are different from theirs. And they should receive a WARNING LETTER before termination.

      Sincerely,
      Arthur Trafford
      USA.

  4. (music to tune of Donald and Lydia)
    There are spaces between Donald and whatever he says..
    Strangers have forced him to live in his head.
    He remembers the details of his flat tires.
    And forgets the creatures that eat up his bread.

    Donald! Is a goofball!
    Like the first fart… From a lady.
    Sometimes…he is crazy…
    But he’s got love…
    Deep in his farts.

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